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Responding to a Smear Campaign By Maureen Metcalf

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Business
Responding to a Smear Campaign By Maureen Metcalf

In an era where people can make assertions about an organization or individual on social media, the topic of brand and reputation has become critical for organizational leaders. While these assertions may be untrue, damage to reputation is real. As the political rhetoric escalates, many companies are concerned. An example of this escalation is when the president of the United States tweeted about Nordstrom’s choice of clothing lines and specifically objected to the choice to terminate the Ivanka Trump line because of sales performance. Companies are now bracing for this type of attack with the same rigor with which they prepare for other business risks.
This blog is part of a series of blogs as companions to the interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Marc Gafni on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on March 21, 2017 focusing on navigating a smear campaign they experienced, respectively, as the board co-chair and the founder of the Center of Integral Wisdom. What emerged was a much more hopeful conversation. They are modeling the behaviors they teach as they confront this challenge, and are working to leverage what would for others be a crippling crisis and share the culture of collaboration and unique contribution to a conscious world. They are talking about an evolution of our culture!
It isn’t always possible to anticipate the range of risks that face an organization, yet prudent business leaders evaluate likely scenarios and create policies and procedures aligned with the probability of the scenario and the risk it poses to the organization. When looking at the risk of a smear campaign, the following are three basic elements that organizations must attend to and an example of how the Center for Integral Wisdom (CIW) responded:

1. Plan your legal response. It is important to have legal counsel who have expertise in this area. They to advise you on your rights, as well as actions you must avoid.

CIW retained legal counsel and discussed the range of responses from how they approached those who started the campaign to considering the liability of directors and officers. It was critical to evaluate if employees or board members were engaged in any actual wrong-doing so that financial and legal liability could be assessed.

2. Public relations response. Companies specialize in helping organizations respond to crisiswhen information has been hacked and whose products have been tainted. Now, many of these companies have expanded to advise on possible and actual smear campaigns.
CIW worked very actively to craft a deliberate message that started with 50 messages of support for the CEO (Marc) and for the organization. Over time, the board co-chair (Barbara Marx Hubbard) posted a thorough accounting of the situation as seen from her role on the board. CIW also acted by removing the names of board members from the website to protect them from attacks because there were coordinated public attacks on a broad range of stakeholders from board members to the publisher of Marc’s books.

During this time, Marc and other board members began writing publicly about the smear campaign to help raise awareness of this risk across the community. They wanted to use their experience to educate others. As a think tank, they looked for opportunities to turn this attack into an educational opportunity for the broader community. Marc wrote about being wrongly accused. Numerous articles, such as those written by Lisa Engles, ”How Fake News is Used to Undermine a Leader” and Clint Fuhs, “Anatomy of A Smear: Internet Trial of Marc Gafni”, are great examples.

3. Employee support and internal communications. Employees are often shocked and in some cases angry or betrayed when their organizations are attacked. It is important that they are given support in managing their personal emotional response (crisis intervention) and are given talking points to respond to family and friends in conversation. Your employees are your first line of defense and they need to feel cared for and come together to support one another and protect the organization so it can continue to meet its mission during difficult times.

CIW, at its core, is a spiritual organization as well as a think tank. Marc is a rabbi. While this barrage of public attacks was personal and ugly, Marc was surrounded by a group of people who believed in him as a person and as a leader. While some distanced themselves, others stepped forward. He took time for personal introspection and renewal. He talked to his board and his staff about his mistakes and about how he was leveraging this opportunity to make a stand for treating everyone with respect and decency. To be clear, Marc like all humans has faults, yet these accusations were false. They were also personal and should have been handled privately between Marc and those who felt wronged.

I had several personal take-aways from this experience. As I make these recommendations, it would be hypocritical of me to do so without saying I have fallen short in each area and have put myself at risk.

1. We all make mistakes (some certainly more public than others). The quality of the person is demonstrated by his or her response when mistakes are made public.

2. It is important to strive to live a life that is above reproach. The adage, “Would you be okay if this action showed up on the cover of the newspaper for your family to read?” is always something to consider.

3. Restore the balance. We all have misunderstandings and it is important to find a path forward to restore a semblance of civility as quickly as possible. Again, I realize this is completely aspirational and I have gone for extended periods of time with little to no communication with people who are very important to me while I worked on my own issues related to the relationship.

4. Extend grace and compassion to others that we would like to receive if we were in their shoes. I can say from my experiences, I have made mistakes I am embarrassed by and I grew from all of them. I moved forward largely because people who cared about me forgave me and supported me despite my fallibility. I can also say that people close to me have held me accountable for cleaning up my messes. Extending compassion and grace doesn’t imply there are no consequences—rather, it means working together to fix what was damaged.

As leaders, we find ourselves navigating an increasingly complex world. We do our best to balance competing commitments and satisfy as many people as possible; however, most of us fall short on occasion. It is what we learn from the process that enables us to grow and help others grow.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook series and the co-author of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.
 
Please note: I will only approve comments on this post that are constructive in nature. I will not perpetuate negativity and smearing behavior. While we promote different perspectives, they must be framed in a manner that promotes solutions to challenges and not framed as personal attacks damaging people involved in the process.

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How Do We Cope With Hate Crimes? Three Considerations by Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

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Variety

A road sign against Hate

 

Hate crimes like the massacre that killed and injured so many in Orlando, Florida are further fueled by terrorism and are meant to instill fear and helplessness. They impact everyone, particularly those who have suffered, those who identify with them and those who love and respect them. At the worst, hate crimes isolate, denigrate, fuel more hate and steal hope. This blog proposes that Compassion, Connection and Hope serve to reduce the loss, isolation, terror, and despair.

 

The Gift of Resilience by Cynthia Brian

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The Gift of Resilience by Cynthia Brian

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Every week, Express Yourself!™ will bring you a stimulating program based on a chapter from our award winning book Be the Star You Are!® for Teens.
Resilience is the key to a healthy life.

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Hosts Asya Gonzalez and Zahra Hasanian talk with Health App reporter, Alex Pawlakos who provides studies and tips on how to be more resilient. From a health standpoint, the better you handle the pressures and stresses of life, the better off you will be physically, mentally, and emotionally. To be resilient means to bounce back quickly. Our hosts interview Mary O’Connor, an actor who lost her ability to walk after a devastating injury in 2014. With her optimistic and determined struggle to regain her ability to walk, she is on a mission to encourage the entertainment industry to cast disabled actors in projects. Mary recently studied with James Franco and was part of an independent film she and her classmates created with Mr. Franco. Asya and Zahra read a humorous story from Cynthia Brian’s book, Be the Star You Are!® for TEENS that illustrates the importance of recovering from mishaps and turning negatives into positives to move forward.
Mary OConnor
Bio: Mary O’Connor
After graduating from high school, Mary O’Connor moved from Massachusetts to Santa Barbara, California. She answered an ad for an open movie audition and snagged her first acting job in the feature film “The Bet.”. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career in films. In 2014, she suffered a rare spinal cord stroke while surfing resulting in being paralyzed from the waist down. She has not let this derail her from her dream of being a working actress and continues to make incredible progress in her recovery. 
She talks about her story to inspire others and to bring awareness to the disappointing lack of representation of disabled individuals in the film and television industries. 
Mary now walks with a cane and is studying acting with James Franco at his Studio 4 School in Los Angeles.

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Resilience

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Empowerment
Resilience

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This week on ‘Today’s Inspiring Women‘ we have two women who will share how to be resilient. To be resilient you need to be strong and flexible with the ability to recover. Our first guest is Marti MacGibbon whose life story is like a Hollywood thriller,  and comedy all rolled into one. She has bounced back from being trafficked to Tokyo and held by Japanese crime figures. She escaped but it left her traumatized, homeless and on drugs. Today Marti shares her sure fire tips on how to overcome adversity and change your life.  Our second guest is Dr Princess Fumi Hancock who is an African Princess. Princess Fumi was being groomed to carry on the royal tradition however she had other dreams of being a book author and movie screenwriter. She has won an Oscar and written over 11 books, 4 have become best sellers. Princess Fumi will share how to find and ignite your inner genius. She will also be sharing how to fight the inner demons of doubt and negative thought. Two great women- a powerful show not to miss.

Kombucha, Maya Angelou, Mediation, Bouncing Back By Cynthia Brian

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Maya Angelou

Welcome to Starstyle®-Be the Star You Are!® with your hosts Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany on the Voice America Empowerment Channel.  Our goal is to seed, stimulate, and support space for positive, meaningful conversations that will get you talking around the dinner table.

Why should you be drinking kombucha daily? What is it and what are the benefits? Heather Brittany consumes this energy enhancing liquid daily and brings this 2000 year old beverage to our attention in Health Matters for a stronger body and mind. Kombucha is heralded to help with detoxification, joint care, digestion and as an immune system booster.

Getting Ready

American poet and author, Maya Angelou died today, May 28, 2014 at 86. Cynthia Brian discusses her work as an author, poet, and activist for civil rights. This “Shero” to the masses will be greatly missed.

When life gives us lemons, do we make lemonade? How do we bounce back from tragic and traumatic events? Boost your recovery with life success coach, Cynthia Brian’s insights.

Research is touting the wellness benefits of daily meditation.  What do we need to do, how do we do it, and for how long do we practice? Cynthia Brian helps clear your mind and heal your heart with deep breathing and gene altering meditation techniques.  Listen to the program at the Voice America Network and Listen at Starstyle® Be the Star You Are!® Radio

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The award winning positive talk radio program, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasts on the Voice America Empowerment Channel LIVE every Wednesday from 4-5pm Pt/7-8pm ET Cynthia Brian and Heather Brittany are the Mother/Daughter dynamic duo who have been co-hosting this program live weekly since 1998 bringing upbeat, life enhancing conversation to the world. With Cynthia’s expertise in interviewing the trailblazers, authors, and experts and Heather’s healthy living segments, these Goddess Gals are your personal growth coaches helping you to jumpstart your life while igniting your flame of greatness. 

Brought to the airwaves under the auspices of the literacy and positive media charity, Be the Star You Are!®, each program will pump your energy to help you live, love, laugh, learn, and lead.

Previous guests and fans of the program on World Talk Radio will always be able to access the archives at http://www.voiceamerica.com/worldtalkradio/vshow.aspx?sid=764.

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